Saturday, July 28, 2007
Thursday, July 26, 2007
I found myself within a shadowed forest,
For I had lost the path that does not stray.
Ah, it is hard to speak of what it was,
that savage forest, dense and difficult,
which even in recall renews my fear:
So bitter- death is hardly more severe!
But to retell the good discovered there,
I’ll clearly tell the other things I saw.
I cannot clearly say how I entered
The wood; I was so full of misdirection just at
The point where I abandoned the true path.
Before my eyes there suddenly appeared
One who seemed faint because of the long silence.
When I saw him in that vast wilderness,
‘Have pity on me,’ were the words I cried,
‘Whatever you may be- a shade, a man.’
‘You see the dense forest that made me turn aside
Help me, oh famous sage, to navigate it,
For it has made my blood and pulses shiver.’
‘It is another path that you must take,’
He answered when he saw my tearfulness,
‘The savage wilderness that is the cause of your outcry
Allows no man to pass along its track,
But blocks him even to the point of death,
Its nature is so squalid, so malicious.
Therefore, I think and judge it best for you
To follow me, and I shall guide you, taking
You from this place, through an eternal place
That is the hallowed depths of medieval academia.
At UVic you shall see the souls who are content
And have achieved new heights.
If you would then ascend as high as these,
A soul more worthy than I will guide you.’
And I replied: ‘O Poet- by God
In whose grace all things are possible- I beg you,
That I may flee this evil and worse evils,
To lead me to the place of which you spoke.’
He then set out, and I moved on behind him
Into worlds unknown, worlds of storied travelers,
Famed poets, scholars, artists, into worlds
Of scientific discovery, feudal society, religion,
Persecution, war, plague and strife beyond measure.
When all was complete, my guides turned to me
Speaking: ‘Braden, though you are leaving, do not
Yet weep, do not weep yet, you’ll need your tears
For what another sword must yet inflict
In your graduate studies.’ As I turned,
I set my vision toward the slope that rises
Most steeply, up from graduation- from there,
In a land across the wide depths of Poseidon,
The land of the ancient celts,
I discovered the value of my Poet-guide’s
Sagacious preparations and lessons
For the path I had chosen, and,
It was from there that I emerged,
To see- once more- the stars.
All creativity aside, however, the UVic Medieval Studies programme has made me a better person and scholar- exposing me to a wide range of academic topics and sources in an entirely holisitic atmosphere. As a result, I feel my education was far more complete and, as an educator, I am now employing those strategies within my classrooms and lessons in order to increase depth and breadth of material. If someone is considering a future career in Medieval Studies at UVic, I wholeheartedly recommend they take full advantage of everything the programme has to offer as it will open their eyes and their minds providing them with the tools to succeed both within the academic world (I graduated from the University of Glasgow, MPhil ’05, UBC Education ’08) and in the business world (I worked as a policy analyst for the Government of British Columbia). UVic Medieval Studies was the best decision I ever made personally, professionally and academically.
Wednesday, July 25, 2007
Saturday, July 21, 2007
That’s the question I had in my mind when watching Beowulf (1999). Because let me get this out of the way now, this movie is bad. The question is not whether it’s good or not. The question is whether the movie is so bad that it’s entertaining, or if it’s so bad it has no redeeming value.
Without a doubt in my mind, of all the movies I’ve reviewed thus far, Beowulf is the worst movie I’ve seen. The plot deviates so far from the source material that it’s unrecognizable. Flame-throwers? Check. Chainsaws? Check. Partial nudity? Check. Acting? Err… no so much.
While A Knight’s Tale plays with historical realism, Beowulf throws it completely to the wayside. The film adopts this odd steam-punk aesthetic. While this does make the movie look different, it makes no sense. For example, Hrothgar’s men wear helmets with no eye-slits. Why? The costume and set designs of the film make little to no sense. As a rule, men wear giant cod-pieces and women wear… well not much of anything at all.
However bad the sets and costumes may be, the acting is worse. It’s hard to tell which is actually worse, the acting or the dialogue. There are so many cringe-worthy lines that even the best of actors would have trouble selling them. The quote I opened with is by far one of my favourites, but they are many more where that came from.
Other groaners include:
Hrothgar: “What brings you here?”
Beowulf: “The darkness.”
Beowulf: “I’m Beowulf and I need some food and rest.”
Beowulf: “I’m not like other men.”
Will: “You know Carl, with all the cool ways to die around here, I'd rather not go by heart-attack.”
I could keep going, but I’ll spare you the pain.
Beowulf is played rather woodenly by Christopher Lambert who many of you may know from the Highlander series of movies. Lambert manages to succeed in being both wooden and overwrought at the same time. His Beowulf is a number of walking clichés. He spends the majority of the film glaring while talking in a gravely whisper. In short (Lambert, short, ha!), the movie’s lead is far from inspiring.
The women of Beowulf are no better. They were clearly not selected on the basis of their acting talents, but rather on the basis of their other ‘endowments.’ Layla Roberts (the star of such classics like Playboy Wet & Wild: Slippery When Wet and Baywatch) plays Grendel’s mother. She is a good example of the kind of ‘talent’ chosen for this film. Her scenes with King Hrothgar amount to little more than soft-core pornography. She has precisely two talents, neither of which is acting.
At the end of the day, I can’t find a single redeeming aspect of Beowulf. Yet I can’t bring myself to hate it. Even though the movie is complete and utter garbage, I’d still rather watch it than Beowulf and Grendel. Beowulf (1999) is the kind of movie where if you got enough friends together you could have fun with it.
It’s nearly bad enough to be funny, even if the humour is unintentional.
MSCU Rating: F
One section of the green, blue and terracotta colored murals painted on plaster show a girl's head, a bunch of grapes and candelabra.
The archaeologists, who were astounded not just by the quality but the sheer quantity of their discovery -- in all 45 crates full of Roman plaster have been removed from the site -- believe the house was destroyed by fire.
Thursday, July 19, 2007
Monday, July 16, 2007
DAMASCUS, June 11 (Reuters) - Pilgrim buses clog a road just outside the Old City of Damascus. Partly to solve that nuisance, municipal planners want to carve a highway through a historic but neglected quarter of the Syrian capital.
"They want to knock down 1,200 shops like mine," said Bassam al-Ayoubi, sitting among the piled shelves of his hardware store in the labyrinth of alleys known as Souq al-Manakhliyeh.
In these crumbling, crowded streets outside the Old City, which UNESCO lists as a World Heritage site, artisans and merchants make and sell anything from farm tools to copper ornaments, brassware and carpets, just as in generations past.
The governorate of Damascus envisages expanding the busy King Faisal Street, which runs parallel to the northern wall of the Old City, into a highway up to 40 metres (130 feet) wide.
Traffic in the street is often held up by the parked buses of Iranian and Lebanese Shi'ite Muslim pilgrims thronging the modern Saida Ruqqiya Mosque just inside the Old City.
But critics question whether the plan to widen the 1.5-km (one-mile) road, built in the late 19th century, is the answer to the congestion problems in the city centre.
"In the rest of the world, they now stop traffic passing near historic cities because of the environmental effects of pollution and vibration," said Mouaffak Doughman, a former director of the governorate's office that deals with preservation and development of the Old City.
PROTESTS FORCE DELAY
The project would demolish swathes of workshops, homes and markets spilling out from the Old City since medieval times. Residents fear that tower blocks, hotels and restaurants will rise in their place, irreversibly altering the area's character.
"If they do this, the history goes, the culture goes," said Ayoubi. "It's a disaster," he said, adding that thousands of people would be displaced or lose their livelihoods.
Protests from residents, archaeologists and conservationists have forced the authorities to put the project on hold until a committee has reported on its impact and the value of the area. The culture minister is due to receive the report on July 15.
The governor of Damascus has invited UNESCO, which had voiced alarm over the scheme, to join the consultations. He and the culture minister have also told UNESCO that no project will be implemented without the U.N. body's agreement.
"This is good. It is not a guarantee for us, but it is good enough for the moment," Nada Al Hassan, programme specialist at the Paris headquarters of the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, said in a telephone interview.
"For UNESCO, this area is part of a buffer zone around the World Heritage property," she said. "The urban fabric itself is valuable, not just the individual buildings. You can't just erase a neighbourhood without affecting the site nearby."
Some Syrian officials query the value of a buffer zone. "The work is outside the wall. Anyway, it doesn't harm the Old City," Tourism Minister Saadallah Agha al-Qalaa told Reuters.
Ayoubi and many other traders and artisans rent their premises and would get no recompense if the urban renewal plan goes ahead. Only owners are entitled to limited compensation.
"We have whole souqs here. If you wipe out the souqs and open up the gates, leaving a few stones, the city will have no meaning. And this is the world's oldest continuously inhabited city," Ayoubi said, reiterating a Damascene boast.
Roman, Byzantine, Ottoman and other empires have left their mark on Damascus, founded more than 4,000 years ago, but the pace of change in this rapidly growing city of 3.5 million has quickened since Syria gained independence 61 years ago.
New roads and buildings have devoured several venerable neighbourhoods -- Syrian law protects only the walled city.
Conservationists advocate restoring rather than razing buildings near the city wall, whose Roman foundations are overlaid by Arab defences dating from the 11th century onward.
The threatened district, which contains architectural jewels such as the Ottoman-era Muallaq Mosque, is undeniably run down.
Shop hoardings, steel shutters, chaotic cables and centuries of grime hide many of its weathered stone arches and brickwork.
But much of the Old City itself is dilapidated. Decay is not a criterion for demolition, UNESCO's Al Hassan argued.
"There are voids from things that were done in the past," she acknowledged. "But other parts are really urban ensembles whose origins date from the 12th or 13th century. So there is this very valuable heritage outside the city wall.
"The city inside the walls cannot be dissociated from the city outside the walls, not only from a historical point of view but also socially and economically," Al Hassan said.
Saturday, July 14, 2007
Friday, July 13, 2007
Thursday, July 12, 2007
Wednesday, July 11, 2007
His life is best recorded in the Dialogues of Pope Gregory the Great. No small figure in the course of Medieval history, he founded twelve monasteries and his rule was the basis for many religious to come. Although his life's ambitions were to be an eremite, a cenobitic monastery in Subiaco begged him to become their abbot. He accepted, and soon the monks were trying to poison him (perhaps the first inspiration for the necessity of a Rule). He retreated again as a hermit, but others began to flock to him, having heard of miracles attributed to him, and hence the twelve monasteries of thirteen men each and a thirteenth in which Benedict himself dwelt till the end of his life.
He is the patron saint:
against poison, nettle rash, temptations, and witchcraft; of agricultural workers, cavers, civil engineers, coppersmiths, dying people, erysipelas, Europe, farm workers, farmers, fever, gall stones, Heerdt (Ger.), inflammatory diseases, Italian architects, kidney disease, monks, nettle rash, Norcia (Italy), people in religious orders, schoolchildren, servants who have broken their master's belongings, speleologists, spelunkers.
So for all you speleologists and spelunkers, you who suffer from erysipelas or have broken your master's belongings, here's to St Benedict!
The manuscript, containing the "Song of the Sea" section of the Old Testament's Book of Exodus and dating to around the 7th century AD, comes from what scholars call the "silent era" - a span of 600 years between the third and eighth centuries from which almost no Hebrew manuscripts survive.
It is now on public display for the first time, at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem.
"It comes from a period of almost darkness in terms of Hebrew manuscripts," said Stephen Pfann, a textual scholar at the University of the Holy Land in Jerusalem.
Scholars have long noted the lack of original biblical manuscripts written between the time of the Dead Sea Scrolls, the latest of which come from the third century, to texts written in the ninth and 10th centuries, Pfann said.
Scholars can only piece together scraps of information on the period using translations into Greek and other languages, he said, "so to have a piece of the original text from this period is quite remarkable."
The parchment is believed to have been left in the Cairo Genizah, a vast depository of medieval Jewish manuscripts discovered in the late 1800s in a previously unknown room at Cairo's ancient Ben Ezra Synagogue.
It was in private hands until the late 1970s, when its Lebanese-born American owner turned it over to the Rare Books, Manuscripts, and Special Collections Library at Duke University.
The manuscript is now on extended loan to the Israel Museum and is on display in the museum's Shrine of the Book, which also houses the Dead Sea Scrolls.
From: CBC NEWS
Saturday, July 7, 2007
From: T.S. Haskett's Some Notes on Palaeography, Codicology and Diplomatics, 2001.
Friday, July 6, 2007
My entry in the Medieval Studies program occurred toward the end of another Bachelors degree, in Mathematics. When I had started that program there had been some promise of employment opportunities which a few years later hadn’t quite developed as planned, so I entered a second degree with the specific intent of raising my academic credentials for entry into a Masters of Library and Information Studies - both in simple terms of GPA, and in terms of having a wider range of academic background to which I could refer.
I then went on to complete the MLIS at UBC between January 2005 (immediately following my last medieval course) and November 2006. I chose Medieval Studies as that degree to enhance my application credentials due to a combination of what one might call vested interest (my family are all of various Northern European descent, being Canadian or American for only the last three generations), appreciation of the wide range of scholarship within the one program, and more specifically being totally engaged by the MEDI electives I had taken mid-way through my BSc – more so than any other free electives.
Despite current qualifications as a Librarian, I am continuing to investigate opportunities to further enhance my Academic qualifications, as the field is just competitive enough that another Graduate degree would be a tremendous asset for upward mobility. To that end, I am looking into a manner of utilizing the skills, concepts, connections, and experience gained in the Medieval Studies program in order to devise some manner of Interdisciplinary research program as just one of several avenues.